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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

Lippincott went off in the gig


it will," Turnbull agreed. "That will bring us up to thirty-nine, and thirty-nine whites ought to be able to fight their way easily enough through this black mob, especially as we shall take them by surprise, and they won't know how many of us there are."

As soon as it became dark, Lippincott went off in the gig, and returned in half an hour with the news that there were six feet of water at the foot of the rock, and twelve feet ten yards away.

"I think, sir," he said, "that we could get her in within three or four yards of the rock."

"That would do excellently," Nat said. "The carpenter had better set to work at once and nail three planks--we have got some down below fifteen feet long--side by side. Let two of the hands help him. Tell him, if he does not think that it will be stiff enough, to nail one of the spare oars on each plank."

He had learned from the girl that many of the negroes sat up by their fires nearly all night, and that therefore there was no advantage in delaying the landing, and he was anxious to move the schooner as soon as possible, as the boats might appear at any time. Everything was in readiness--the arms had been brought on deck, the muskets and pistols loaded, and as soon as the gangway was knocked together, which did not take many minutes, Lippincott went off in the gig with a long hawser. As soon as he returned

and reported that he had fastened it to a tree above the rock, the crew tailed on, and the schooner was noiselessly towed to her place. Another hawser was taken on shore, and she was hauled broadside on until she lay, with only a few inches of water under her keel, within ten feet of the line of rock.

The hatchways had all been securely fastened down, and an old chain was taken round the trunk of a large tree, and its ends shackled round the mainmast. This could be loosed almost instantaneously by the crew when they returned, but would much increase the difficulty that the negroes would encounter in getting the vessel away if they discovered her. The edge of the rock was but some three feet higher than the rail, and there was therefore no difficulty in ascending the gangway. When all had crossed, this was pulled up and pushed in among the bushes. They followed the shore till they reached the spot at which the girl had come down, as she would more easily find her way from there than from the place where they had landed. Telling the others to follow in single file, Nat took his place with the girl, at their head.

"How far is it?" he said to her in low tones.

"It is just at the top of the hill. We shall be there in less than a quarter of an hour." The sailors had been warned to walk with the greatest caution, and especially to avoid striking any of their weapons against the trees.

They went slowly, for it was very dark in the forest. Beyond the fact that she had come straight down the hill when she escaped, she could give no information about the way.

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